Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Baxter Detention Centre shame - Multiple suicide attempts in a culture of neglect

DECEMBER 12, 2006: Australia's litany of human rights abuses continue. Multiple suicide attempts at the Baxter Immigration Detention Centre in South Australia.

Six people have attempted to take their own lives inside the Baxter Detention centre near Port Augusta over the past week. Western Australian group Project SafeCom said detainees had tried to hang themselves, while others had slashed themselves with broken glass and mirrors. The immigration department said a number of incidents had taken place over the past few days but none had resulted in serious injury to any inmates. The latest incident occurred on Tuesday morning...

Last week, more than 30 detainees staged a protest at the Baxter maximum security complex. A Baxter detainee says a group of detainees blocked the front gate of the detention centre, and others are on a hunger strike. He says the protest follows reports of several detainees harming themselves to draw attention to their frustrations.

"It's just a process of long-term immigration detention, it's unnecessary, it's unreasonable," he said. "Any other country in the world - and Australia is a wonderful country - but any other country in the world, they detain you for 30 days, they identify you, then they release you. There is no purpose for us being here. We have been vilified by the Government in order to justify our detention. This is unfair."

The Immigration Department says there have been six incidents in the past four days. It says two detainees jumped from the roof on Friday, a detainee climbed a tree on Saturday and was treated for heat exhaustion when he came down, and on Sunday another man climbed onto a roof before coming down again.

Refugee advocates say six people have tried to take their own lives at the Baxter Detention centre in South Australia over the past week. Western Australian group Project SafeCom said the inmates had tried to hang themselves while some had also slashed themselves with broken glass and mirrors.

"These incidents are no surprise," said project SafeCom spokesman Jack Smit. "The fact remains that Australia locks up people in detention centre jails such as Baxter which represent maximum security jails, wherever they are built around Australia. Mandatory detention is a bankrupt policy and these incidents form yet another layer in the hundreds of stories that affirm this."

Despite detainees and guards being hospitalised, an immigration department spokesman said none of the recent incidents have resulted in serious injury to any inmates. The latest incident occurred on Tuesday morning and the inmate involved was currently being assessed, he said.

The Immigration Department says one detainee jumped from the roof of a transportable building while being spoken to by staff. He was taken to Baxter's medical centre and was later taken to hospital. Rob Tolsen from the ambulance service says none of the injuries are life threatening. "They treated and stabilised two patients and transported them through to the Port Augusta Hospital," he said. "About half an hour later, we received a call for a third person who had sustained some injuries and we attended the Baxter detention centre again and transported that person through to the Port Augusta Hospital also."

"Staff were speaking to the man when he jumped to the ground," a DIMA spokesman said. "A GSL officer caught the man before he reached the ground." 'GSL' are the UK-based Global Solutions Limited, who profit to the tune of $20 million a year from detaining refugees. Globally, GSL has more than 8000 employees, of whom 1064 are in Australia. Head Office for Australian operations is in Melbourne and the contract office for the Detention Services contract is located in Canberra.

A Commonwealth Ombudsman report on 20 cases of wrongful immigration detention was released last week, further exposing the ill-treatment of people inside these gulags. Some chilling accounts include: "a child is locked up by government officials because of a computer glitch. Wrong data is on the files. No charge or court order is required to put him away, and no parent need be notified..."

In reality, criminals are treated better, with more respect for their rights and due process. Adele Horin, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald says: "an out-of-control Department of Immigration is the legacy of John Howard's and Philip Ruddock's ruthlessness and Amanda Vanstone's casualness. Their combined efforts over a decade have created a culture in which at least 247 people, many of them Australian citizens or permanent residents, have been wrongly locked up in Villawood, Curtin or Baxter detention centres, or deported."

The Ombudsman examined the cases of 10 children wrongly detained - eight of whom were citizens - as well as nine adults, either citizens or residents with valid visas who were wrongly locked up by Immigration. He details the case of Mr G, who arrived here from East Timor in 1975, became schizophrenic and was detained for 43 days in 2002 even though he had a valid visa.

Nevertheless, a monstrous $300 million detention facility is almost complete on Christmas Island. Despite last year's amendment to the Migration Act to ensure children would be detained only as a matter of last resort, the centre has a children's compound and classrooms.


*There were 170 persons who had their visas cancelled under Section 501, of which 52 left Australia in 2004-05.

ABC - Detainees in Baxter protest
The West - Six SA detainees suicidal, say advocates
News Ltd - Baxter inmates in suicide bids - claim
ABC - Mental health assessment for Baxter detainee
ABC - Three hospitalised after Baxter incidents
The Age - Two detainees jump off roof at Baxter
SMH - Brutal mix: ruthlessness and carelessness
Global Solutions Limited
Perth Indymedia - Six hangings at Baxter detention centre
*Migration Act: "501s"

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